Senate Democrats embarked on a marathon session this weekend as the chamber kicked off a complex procedure to pass a $433 billion climate and spending package — all while the party suffered a blow Saturday to a key portion of the bill’s prescription drug reform plan.
Democrats survived the vetting of the Medicare portions of the bill, but lost ground on parts penalizing drug companies for hiking prices on people with private health insurance.
“This is a major victory for the American people,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) said in a statement, Politico reported. “While there was one unfortunate ruling … the overall program remains intact, and we are one step closer to finally taking on Big Pharma and lowering Rx drug prices for millions of Americans.”
Schumer’s announcement took some wind out of the party’s signature domestic policy bill, which was slated for a key procedural vote later Saturday.
In a ruling Saturday morning, Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough signed off on the Medicare-related drug-pricing plan, but nixed the portion that would penalize drug companies for raising prices for millions of Americans with private insurance policies.
As the Senate’s nonpartisan referee, MacDonough gets to decide what provisions are eligible to avoid a Republican filibuster.
Nina Schaefer, director for the Center for Health and Welfare at The Heritage Foundation, said she believes Senate Democrats are trying to expand Obamacare subsides “to everyone, which puts them on a path to a single payer.”
“Medicare already negotiates for prescription drug pricing. It’s done through the private sector,” she said. “There is no need for government to interfere here unless their plan is to set prices and ration care to seniors’ drugs.
“They are propping up an Obamacare expansion on the backs of seniors.”
Although Democrats are reeling from the loss of their proposed prescription drug-price benefits package, they did get some good news in the areas of climate change and clean energy reform.
The weekend session is all part of the so-called “vote-a-rama” that allows senators from both parties to offer unlimited amendments to final versions of bills after debate has closed. Dozens are expected to be offered and voted upon in rapid fire sessions.
The vote is required under the rules of reconciliation, which allows Democrats to do an end-run around Republican filibusters and pass the bill with a simple majority.
For months, Senate Democrats have worked to craft a bill that would attract the support of all 50 of their members. A final deal was reached this week and the vote-a-rama is expected to begin Saturday evening or early Sunday.
Republicans have vowed to make it painful, forcing Democrats into potentially embarrassing votes ahead of tough midterm elections in November.
“What will vote-a-rama be like? It will be like hell,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), said in a press conference Thursday, Acesparks reported. “They deserve this.”
The Democrat’s far-left flank may also cause trouble. Sen Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) said he plans to offer a number of politically dangerous left wing goodies — including lowering the age of Medicare eligibility to 60.
Although he won’t stand in the way of overall passage, Sanders has said the current bill “does virtually nothing to address the enormous crises that working families all across this country are facing today,” The Hill reported.
The lion’s share of new spending, $369 billion, will go towards a raft of energy and climate provisions, including $62 billion to support manufacturing of solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, electric cars and process critical minerals. There will be $60 billion for “environmental justice” including projects in “disadvantaged communities,” $30 billion green-energy projects by states and electric utilities, $27 billion for “clean energy technology accelerator” to reduce emissions and $20 billion to support “climate- smart agriculture practices.”
Americans looking to purchase a new electric car will receive a $7,500 tax credit and a $4,000 credit for used models.
The bill is expected to reduce the deficit by paying for the programs with $764 billion in new tax increases.
Among the revenue generators are a 15% corporate minimum tax, prescription drug price reform and stepped up IRS enforcement.
Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY) tweeted Saturday, “We need more border patrol agents not IRS agents. Pass it on.”
MacDonough must sign off on all bill provisions.
PREDICTED TOTAL REVENUE: roughly $764 billion
Setting 15% Corporate Minimum Tax — $258 billion
Prescription Drug Price Reform — $288 billion
— Allows Medicare to negotiate prices, caps out-of-pocket costs at $2,000
Increased IRS Tax Enforcement — $125 billion
— Dependent on $80 billion expenditure across 10 years to reach net revenue
New stock buyback tax — $73 billion
— 1% excise tax on corporate stocks buybacks, proposed by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema
Fee on methane leaks — $20 billion
PREDICTED TOTAL SPENDING: $433 billion
Energy and Climate Provisions: $369 billion
-$7.5K tax credits for buyers of new electric vehicles, $4K for used models
-$62 billion to support manufacturing of solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, electric cars and process critical minerals
–$60 billion for ‘environmental justice’ including projects in ‘disadvantaged communities’
-$30 billion green-energy projects by states and electric utilities
-$27 billion for ‘clean energy technology accelerator’ to reduce emissions
–$20 billion to support ‘climate-smart agriculture practices’
-$10 billion in low-income home energy rebates and grants for affordable housing retrofits
–$9 billion for federal clean-energy purchases, including $3 billion for USPS electric vehicles
-$7.6 billion in grants to support forest conservation, plant trees and restore coastlines
Healthcare Provisions: $64 billion
–Extension of COVID-era Affordable Care Act subsidies through 2025, allowing people earning up to 150% of poverty level to get health insurance for $0. Higher earners can get coverage for 8.5% of income